I have received calls from no less than eight future test takers who want advice on how to prepare. One, it is very flattering and two, I honestly think I can help. Hence this post.
How long a time is most appropriate for preparation?
A. Three months. Less than that, you might end up feeling unprepared and insecure; more than that-you might burn out. Studying for GMAT is fun, but there can be too much of a good thing.
Should I join a prep course?
A. It depends entirely on the kind of person you are. If you like competing, go for it . On the plus side, it gives you a chance to be part of a charged up environment where you'll meet other like minded people who will encourage you to study. On the minus side, you might meet a self effacing bunch that aims to "score a 600 and be happy in that" . If competition can shake your confidence, go ahead and do it on your own. I know a lot of people who scored a 770 without any outside help. There are plenty of books and sites that make it possible.
Suggestions on how to begin:First, buy or borrow these books and start plodding through them -
Princeton's Crack the GMAT
Kaplan Premier Program For GMAT
Official Guide to GMAT, 11th edition
Arco Essay Book
Buying them is better because you get CDs that way, AND you get codes to enter their respective sites which have plenty of prep material.
Second,spend a weekend going through these websites:
www.mba.com. This one has two free tests. Download them and do them BEFORE you start doing questions from the Official Guide(OG) because some questions are common. The fantastic bit of news is that these two tests can actually be thought of as SIX tests- because the question bank keeps changing every time you take the test. So I suggest that you take the first test two or three times in the beginning of your prep and save the other test to maybe the middle of your prep; it would serve as a measurement device for the level of your preparation.
www.gmattutor.com. Another very helpful site. Spend at least two hours reading this one.Once, in the beginning , then towards the end. It gives excellent prep tips. But the best thing in this site is a list of study plans. Take a very sincere look at them, select the one that suits you best, then take a printout and try and stick to it as much as possible.
Some More Suggestions:
1. Early in your preparation, you will figure out your respective Achilles' Heels. These are the ones you need to conquer. If sentence correction is what is bringing your score down, search for the toughest Sent Corrections on the net and do them until you're correcting the conversation of people around you.If Data Sufficiency questions are ones you get wrong most often, work at doing 40 data sufficiency questions a day for a week. There absolutely is no substitute for hard work.
2. While solving questions, spend a significant amount of time reading the explanations. The questions are not important ; the explanations are. And in the above mentioned books, the explanations need to be read more than once. In a few days' time, the authors of Princeton, Kaplan and the OG start to feel like old friends. They definitely reminded me of MY friends - they're reliable and they have pathetic senses of humor.
3. Make notes. Whether or not you decide to join a prep course, making notes is very important. Making a list of math formulas, idioms, etc may seem unnecessary but trust me, it comes very handy in the fag end of the study months.
4. Aim for 800. Remember, if you aim for a 600, you might end up with 500. So, think positive, and talk positive.
Will write some more later. Watch out for GMAT Tutor Two. I will gather my scattered collection of free tests, useful links and podcasts and post them here soon.
Here's what I figure - If the eight of you do all that I did, plus if you do not commit the mistakes that I did, logic says that you will score more than my 710. I will follow your preparation with interest. In return , I will welcome insights on my admission process.